An Interview With Frankie 2001
This is a picture from Frankie's conductor, Terry Woodson.
The picture was taken by Dennis Mathews, editor, founder and publisher of
CRESCENDO & JAZZ MUSIC MAGAZINE
Terry captioned it "It's Frank doing what he loves."
"Sinatra Stays the Course with Some Familiar Melodies"
by Miriam DiNunzio
Chicago Sun-Times, September 7, 2001
If you're longing to hear some of the best music from the Great American
Songbook, then Ravinia is the place to be Saturday night, when Frank Sinatra Jr.
brings the music made famous by his father to the Highland Park stage.
Accompanied by several of the musicians who toured with him and his
late father for years, the singer-arranger-conductor will also be
backed by the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. Partly a tribute to the
songs most of us immediately identify with Frank Sr., the concert is
also a showcase for the musical talents of Frank Jr., though he's the
first to admit he knows why the audience is there.
Forever in the shadow of his father, Frank Jr. began his own career
40 years ago last month, with his first paying job -- singing with a
small band at the Plaza Gardens in Disneyland. It's been 40 years on
the road, the life of a "regular working musician" he is quick to
say, and the concert program he has been performing for the past
several years is "one of the big reasons he's got paying gigs around
"The show will start with the music that we do that is not
necessarily [my father's]," Sinatra said. "Then of course we do the
segment of the songs my father sang." Sinatra not only sings the
songs, but eloquently crafts the stories behind the music, the
stories of the composers and arrangers, which give the listener much
insight into what makes the music of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and
George and Ira Gershwin so timeless.
"That's the only justification which I have for doing the show," the
highly introspective Sinatra said. "The only reason why the people
would have any use for me rather than just listening to recordings.
The idea is to put the songs into context. I mean you cannot wear all
the hats yourself when you're just a singer; somebody had to write
the melodies, the lyrics, and it's important to talk about those
While the music may ultimately be familiar to both the players and
the audience, Sinatra said he often will seek out new arrangements
just to keep things interesting.
"Now and again I like to get out arrangements that have not been
played before," he said. "It's fun and most certainly a challenge.
Recently, I've taken to singing 'Strangers in the Night,' which I've
never done before. I've taken to singing 'New York, New York,' which
I've never done before, and it's not easy to do, when all is said and
done. But I'm singing them the way they [the audience] remember it.
They are looking to me to paraphrase Frank Sinatra music. They want
to keep that Sinatra sound alive."
Does it bother him that so many listeners still say that he "sounds
just like his father"?
"Well, if I have to sound like somebody, that's not too bad," he said
with a slight chuckle. "But in all honesty, yes it does bother me,
only because I seem to be of myself completely useless. That's
regrettable to somebody my age.
"People come because they love that Sinatra music. The average
lifespan of a 'star' these days is 10 years. My father had hit
records in every decade since the 1930s. That is unheard of anymore.
I mean, how many legendary performers do you have these days? My father
is dead three years now and he's still selling out showrooms."
Some of the circumstances surrounding the death of his father still
painfully tug at Sinatra's heart. While his sister Tina sought to "feel better"
he said, by writing her tell-all book, My Father's Daughter, last year, Sinatra said
he would have preferred the family's personal lives had been kept private,though
he understood his sister's need to write the book as a way to heal, and clear the
air on one very crucial point.
"My father suffered a complete circulatory collapse, and
unfortunately, his death took almost two hours. And the thing that
stuck in my sister's craw, that she could never get past, was the
fact that my father's widow [Barbara] was able, while he was
in the process of dying, to call her people from as far away as
Burbank and Woodland Hills, [nearly an hour away] while my sisters
and I were 20 minutes from the hospital and we were not called. She
had time to notify her relatives as far away as New York to make
travel arrangements to fly in and bury Frank Sinatra. It was
obviously completely intentional.
"For a better part of an hour and a half, my father drifted in and
out of consciousness, and it would have been very nice to be able to
say goodbye. My sisters and I have never gotten over that."
What would he have said to his father had he been given the chance?
"That's a very good question," Sinatra said. "What do you say when
you have to say a final goodbye to somebody? [Pause] Maybe, as I
would say in my eulogy days later at his funeral, 'Thank you for
Frank Sinatra Jr. will spend some of his time here speaking to
students, thanks to the efforts of an organization known as YEA!
"YEA! stands for Youth, Education and the Arts," explained Ray
Geraci, chairman of this year's YEA! benefit concert featuring
Sinatra Saturday night. "We raise funds through these annual concert
benefits to help support programs for area arts and social services
Some of those organizations have included Apple Tree Theatre, the
Highland Park Strings, the Opera Studio of Highland Park and the
"The program has been very successful," said Kerry Leaf, a YEA! board
member. "Last year's concert netted over $154,000 that was
distributed to several nonprofit groups in the area, including
several of the local schools, which in turn used the funds to for in-
house workshops, computers for art programs and such."
Nearly 400 students from the Highland Park district are expected for
a lecture/mini concert by Sinatra today at Elm Middle School.
"I'll just talk to them about music, to recognize the beauty of
music, rather than the 'fad' quality of music," Sinatra said. "And to
recognize how everything in life is reflected in the music of the times."
"The sixth, seventh and eighth grade band, orchestra and choral
students are in for the chance of a lifetime to hear Mr. Sinatra and
a few of his other musicians," Leaf added. "And the whole event, including
the concert on Saturday night, is a chance for us to raise money for worthy
organizations, and also to enjoy the music of a> legend in his own right."
Frank Sinatra Jr.: "Sinatra on Sinatra." 8 p.m. Saturday. Ravinia
Festival, Lake Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park. Concert
tickets: $40, pavilion; $10, lawn. Concert/benefit tickets, $200.